October 16th, 2015
Understanding the Complex Brand: A Case Study of the British Royal Family
Cele Otnes, College of Business, University of Illinois, Pauline Maclaran, Marketing Department, Royal Holloway University of London

Geographic brands form a market system rooted in claims of product authenticity. But regions are shared and contested political spaces, with unclear ownership and boundaries. Who shapes the brand narrative for iconic regional products? Who defines the geographic and product boundaries, and who owns the resulting regional brand? In this presentation, Alan discussed his research on the challenges of organizing and managing a market system of independent producers and creating a customer-focused marketing strategy for collective regional brands. His research investigates these issues in a long-term participant observation of efforts to organize traditional producers of olive oil and establish new regional brands in the politically volatile region of Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority. This study examines the multiple layers and hierarchy of tensions that characterize this market system, and how an effective market strategy might emerge. To better illustrate the product characteristics of this market system, Alan's talk included a guided tasting of selected olive oils from the region.


November 6th, 2015
Governing the Digital Ones: Exposing the Governmentality of Socio-Digital Platforms
Laurent Busca and Laurent Bertrandias, Marketing Department, University of Toulouse

Firms widely use both Social Media platforms and virtual communities to establish and maintain relationships with consumers. Previous literature investigated the benefits of using communities or social networks in a marketing strategy, but the impact of marketing on platform users remains unexplored. For this presentation, Laurent will describe his qualitative analysis of three different data sources (interviews with Community Managers, netnographical observations from a professional community of Community Managers, and professional literature about Community Management) to investigate how marketers both shape and manage Social Media users. Drawing on a Foucauldian framework, Laurent and his co-author find that firms exert a specific form of governmentality which they call ubiquitous governmentality: Community Managers act simultaneously at both community and individual levels. They gather qualitative individual data and quantitative aggregated data to act upon a community formed as a binary system: a “mass” of passive individuals acting as a whole and a few “super-users” who act as relays of power. The Community Manager does not escape the representation process, and is given a double identity – member inside the community, forming one-to-one relationships, and governor outside the community, managing the “population”.


February 5th, 2016
Crossing the #BikiniBridge: Social Media, Body Image Ideals and Culturally Branded Body Parts
Jenna Drenten, Marketing Department, Loyola University

Existing research on body image and traditional marketing media fails to account for today’s increasingly social media driven landscape. Thus, the purpose of this research is to explore how body image trends evolve in the social media marketplace and to examine the power of social media in shaping body image ideals. Specifically, this study takes a cultural branding approach to understand the process by which women’s singularized body parts (e.g., arms, legs, chest) become culturally branded entities through social media hashtagging (e.g., #thighgap, #bikinibridge, #hotdoglegs, #thighbrow.) That is, how do ‘body part brand names’ emerge through social media and how do consumers respond to ‘body part brand names’ as they infiltrate the marketplace? For this presentation, Jenna will discuss the body image phenomenon of the “bikini bridge” (#bikinibridge), characterized by protruding hipbones and an inverted stomach. The study follows a case method examining the evolution of the “bikini bridge” phenomenon, which began as an Internet hoax and quickly developed into an online body image trend. Findings reveal the emerging role of social media in presenting, propagating, perpetuating, and pirating body image ideals.


March 4th, 2016
Sharing Difficult Choices: Effective Decision Support
Tatiana Barakshina, Marketing Department, University of Illinois at Chicago

Tatiana’s research extends current understanding of the decision process and emotional outcomes for difficult decisions within the consumer behavior stream of literature, building on the work of Botti, Orfali and Iengar (2009), Thompson (2005), and Luce (2005). Clinican visit observations and dyadic (patient and provider) interviews are used as the research method. Tatiana uses the context of pregnancy and childbirth medical decisions as a study domain, and she analyzes specific communities formed on the Babysetter.org platform. Her research examines whether and when a mismatch exists between doctor’s and patient’s perception of the decision sharing: decisions perceived by a patient as “shared” may not be perceived the same way by a doctor, and vice versa. She further examines what drives medical consumers to seek decision support from non-professional peers – others facing similar decisions -- via online healthcare communities.She hypothesizes that decisions of higher perceived difficulty will lead patients to seek more decision support and advice from on-line peer communities, compared to less difficult decisions.


April 1st, 2016
Somewhere Out There: The Power of Brands To Act As Virtual Proxies Signifying Safety and Representing Home during Intense Risk-Filled Separations
Hope Jensen Schau, Marketing Department, University of Arizona, Mary C. Gilly, Marketing Department, University of California Irvine, Mary W. Celsi, Marketing Department, California State University, Long Beach

While past research has focused on the many complexities surrounding consumers’ relationships with objects and brands, less focus has been placed on how consumers use brands within their real life interpersonal relationships, or specifically how brands connect consumers beyond shared affinity. In this presentation, Hope presented research that seeks to understand the manner in which consumers undergoing intense risk-filled separations from family and friends use brands in their communication with distant loved ones. Specifically, she discussed her examination (with her co-authors) of the manner in which deployed military and their family and friends utilize brands in their interpersonal communications. Using historical documents, brand promotions that explicitly call upon patriotic military themes, interviews with families that have experienced a military deployment, and online forums for deployed military and their families, she discussed the strategic use of brands within personal communications during intense risk-filled separations. We examine outward facing consumer-brand bonds, those with communicative function to an external set of constituents (family and friends not deployed to the same base). She also discussed two basic categories: comfort brands and military endorsed brands. For each of these, there are two consumer brand relationship trajectories: continuing (once begun they are maintained in and out of military service) and contextual (only active during active military service). We find that consumers utilize brands as virtual proxies signifying safety and representing home during intense risk-filled separations. Both consumers at home and those deployed share pictures and stories of shared brands to strengthen bonds and communicate shared safety.

Hope was selected as our annual "fly-in" speaker--someone who does not live within driving distance of Chicago and whose travel expenses are paid by our generous sponsors. As is true every year, nominations and voting for the "fly in" speaker were open to everyone on the C4 mailing list. Thanks to all who participated!


May 6th, 2016
From Subsistence Marketplaces to Sustainable Marketplaces? Synergies Between Research, Teaching, and Social Initiatives
Madhu Viswanathan, College of Business, University of Illinois

Much of humanity lives at or near subsistence across resource and literacy barriers. In this presentation, Madhu summarized his research program on low-literate, low-income consumers in the United States and subsistence consumers, entrepreneurs and marketplaces in India. He discussed teaching and social initiatives that have developed fro the program and the challenges and opportunities that this arena presents for researchers, educators, and students.

Madhu was selected as our annual "drive-in" speaker--someone who does not live in the Chicago area but who lives within a reasonable driving distance and whose travel expenses are paid by our generous sponsors. Thanks to Alan Malter and his committee (Ashlee Humphreys and Michelle Weinberger) for choosing this year's speaker!

Past events

2015 -2016